AND THE AWARD GOES TO

I don’t need the mug, the medal, or the t-shirt. I want the award.

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It’s good (isn’t it) to have a few things on your list that you would like to attain to, even though the reach is too far? You know, like: bringing world peace, writing the next great novel, playing drums with Diana Krall, etc. Numerous grade-school teachers documented my “vivid imagination and daydreaming” on my report cards. I took it as a compliment, though I’m not sure it was intended that way. I still daydream; it’s just that the dreams have changed.

Our dreams do change, don’t they? The good news is we still get to have them. Even the Bible promises that while the youngsters get to have visions, we men-of-a-certain-age get to dream dreams. What’s the old line about not letting your dreams be replaced by regrets?

Just in the past few weeks I’ve attended two memorial services: one was for Orlie Sawatzky,the grandfather of my daughter-in-law, Kara. the other was for my father. The heart of the service for Orlie was when his grandchildren told stories about this man they loved deeply. When planning my Dad’s service I said, let’s steal that idea and let his grandkids share their stories. It too was the heart of the service.

As I listened to all of these grandfather stories, I realized my dream of being the BEST POPS EVER was just that; a dream. I’ll never surpass those two. Still, I can strive to be my version of best.

Now let’s play the “If Only...” game. If only I had the energy to keep up with one of my grands, much less 6-soon to be 7. There’s not enough coffee. I try to do the yoga and walking, hoping that I can build some stamina, but it’s like that slurping sound as you finish off a strawberry malt and you’re trying to get that last bit. Don’t get me wrong: I can play checkers, Uno, Legos, and dolls all day. I’m up for back to back to back to back episodes of Peppa Pig or Paw Patrol, and I’ll read books as long as they want to read books. You should see me watch them dance, ride their bikes, do cartwheels, jump from the chair to the sofa. I’m happy to peel an apple they are probably going to take one bite of. But none of that is going to win any awards. If only I had the funds to take them all to Disneyland or world or whatever. If only I didn’t hate Branson and Silver Dollar City. If only my dermatologist would let me play in the sun without a big hat, 350 SPF sunscreen and a long-sleeved shirt. If only I weren’t paralyzed with fear about one of them getting bit by a disease carrying mosquito or tick, a wasp, spider, scorpion, or the neighbors yapping shiiity little shih tzu dog. If only... Know what I mean?

So, I listened to these amazing young adults: the Sawatzky’s and Fuller’s, talk about their grandfathers and I thought to myself what is the common denominator here? What is the thread that runs through these stories that turns into the fabric of a really good granddad?

And there it was! Orlie Sawatzky and William Fuller gave them a whole lot of presents. That right. They showered their grandkids with presents.

Oh, wait. That’s a typo. That should have been presence. That’s what they did. They gave their grandkids their presence—their undivided, unconditional, never-ending presence. They were just there for them. And even now, through the memories and the stories, these two old saints are still there for them.

I can do that.

Remembering

Everything changes and nothing remains still. You cannot step twice into the same stream.
— Heraclitus

LAST AUTUMN, my Amazing-Missus and I attended her high school class reunion. I wrote a bit about it.

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While at the reunion I was visiting with a lady who had been married to one of my schoolmates. As we visited I was struck with a spell of melancholy. For some reason I have no connections with anyone that I went to school with. It’s not that I didn’t have friends; maybe I’m just not a good cultivator, which is a little weird to me because a role I truly cherish is that of being a creative catalyst—one who brings creative people together in collaboration.

But then a pop on Facebook, the social media thing. Maybe you’ve heard of it, maybe you’ve been politically manipulated by it. A name I recognized was there on the FB, the name of a girl that I considered to be a friend in grade school, junior high and high school. Not a “girlfriend” though. Her sights were set much higher.

One thing lead to another and a few weeks ago, we met for lunch. Karla, Arlene and me. What a gift it was. She was able to tell me about many of our classmates. I felt reconnected somehow. And at the same time I realized that Heraclitus was right. You cannot step twice into the same stream. 

Karla told us there was a group of Trojan alum having a meet-up at the Methodist church if we wanted to stop by. So we did. We walked into the church and followed the signs to the Fellowship Hall. We could see through the open doors the group gathered. “This isn’t them”, I thought. “This is the church’s senior adult group.” And then it dawned on me. All these people other than me have aged, and come to find out, many are gone.

I dug out my old yearbook, from my junior year 1968, and scanned the pictures of my classmates, pausing on some to recall a memory or two. Some of these, I realized, I had sat in class with year after year and I knew very little about them. Missed opportunities no doubt.

The tradition back then, when the yearbooks were handed out at the end of the school year was to hand your book to others for them to sign. I read the entries in my book through a much older lens. For the most part, we didn’t look to far ahead: “Hope you have a great summer!” Some entries were nostalgic: “Well another year is behind us…” Some prophetic: “Stay just the way you are and you’ll go far,” words I’ve never seen on one of those motivational posters.

We didn’t know it at the time but things were simpler and yet they weren’t. 1968 is notorius for riots, protests, and culture quaking moments. But without the WWW, 24-hour news outlets, a strange innocence prevailed; or at least that’s the way I remember it.

On the 50th anniversary of my senior year, I wonder about the Senior Class of 2019. Are they having a good summer? Are they aware of the crap-storm in Washington D.C.? Do they care? Have the active-shooter drills at their school become as common place as the atomic bomb drills did for us? Is there a thread or two of innocence left? Is there someone writing words of encouragement on the flyleaf of their yearbook? 

If I could write a prelude of sorts in their yearbook, I might say something like this:

Make a new friend this year. Not one of those social media “friends”, but a real one, maybe one that is different from you: race-wise, sex-wise, faith-wise—you know, different. When you get together with your new friend, put away the phones and talk. Talk about the future, your fears, your faith.

Be creative. Make a contribution. Express gratitude. Do something that makes your palms sweaty. Pay attention—not just in class but to what is happening around you. Remember: “Everything changes and nothing remains still. You cannot step twice into the same stream.” — Heraclitus


Just a note: I attended school at Jenks Public Schools through my Junior year, but transferred and graduated from Will Rogers High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

P.S.: Thank you Karla Newman Taber for being a friend.

For Sunday, February 7, 2016

Psalm 127. A PILGRIM SONG OF SOLOMON

If GOD doesn’t build the house,
        the builders only build shacks.
    If GOD doesn’t guard the city,
        the night watchman might as well nap.
It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late,
        and work your worried fingers to the bone.
    Don’t you know he enjoys
        giving rest to those he loves?
 
Don’t you see that children are GOD’S best gift?
        the fruit of the womb his generous legacy?
Like a warrior’s fistful of arrows
        are the children of a vigorous youth.

Oh, how blessed are you parents,
        with your quivers full of children!


    Your enemies don’t stand a chance against you;
        you’ll sweep them right off your doorstep.
 

pops and his "arrows", celebrating our 2016 birthdays.

pops and his "arrows", celebrating our 2016 birthdays.

Testing 1, 2, 3.

I'M NOT AN ELECTRICIAN OR AN ENGINEER. Luckily, you don’t have to show some kind of license or certificate when you go to Home Depot® to buy a pair of wire strippers or vice grips, because like most guys, I don’t let knowledge, or the lack of it, get in the way of taking things apart and trying to put them together again.

As a kid, I remember the intrigue of attaching wires together to see what would happen. One such memory is burned into my cerebral circuitry. It was probably second grade and time for the school science fair. My parents were very busy. They were bakers at the time, making pies for the early morning deliveries. I took it upon myself to create a blue-ribbon science fair entry.

We definitely could have hung out together.

We definitely could have hung out together.

I found an extension cord, cut off the feminine end, stripped the wires back and taped them to the legs of a little metal folding chair. I strapped my little brother in and was just about to plug in my certain-to-be-award-winning entry, when my mom noticed, screamed, and the rest is a blur. Despite other, later experiments on my brother, he’s still here today.

One of my favorite and successful, projects started with finding an old record player in a pile of junk someone had dumped onto the Arkansas riverbed near our house. Its tubes were missing, but I used the turntable parts, wired around the internal amp to another working amp and voila!

So, four paragraphs in now, let me say, this is a post about connections. I had an english teacher once who critized my writing because, “it takes you too long to get to the point.” Well, I have a blog now, so… there.

For several posts now, I’ve been talking about having a "knot"—a group of people to hang out with, talk with; connect with. I realize my metaphor is a bit flawed now, in an age where everything is becoming more wireless. But I really like the picture of relationships being like wired together. Even the picture that sometimes wires fray and sparks fly.

Tonight I’m meeting with a little knot of people I treasure. We meet almost every Friday night. They are the first two people I’m interviewing as a part of the series I promised in my last blog post. I’m hoping to wrap up the interview tonight so I can write about it over the weekend.

Until then, may your connections be strong and your tubes burn brightly.